In this to-do list, I will guide you on what you need to do as a web designer to be on the road to success. Note that this list starts at the very basics. This guide will take you from choosing the right domain name, to getting the most traffic and clients to your website. If you’re new to web design, you may be thinking “Where do I go now? What do I do now?” Even if you aren’t new to web design, with this to-do list and my other guides which I will mention throughout this article, you can be on the right road to becoming a successful web designer. Make sure you take action as you read through or you will find yourself a month down the road and you still haven’t started! If you run into any trouble, please post a comment and I will guide you. I will add more things to this page as time goes by, so please check back for updates.
Update: thanks to your support, my to-do list has received an astonishing 2700 tweets! That is 2700 votes from web designers all over the world.
1. Get a domain that is easy to remember.
Recommended domain registrar: GoDaddy
I am always creating websites and it is extremely important to choose a good domain. Very often, I see domains like RandySullivanBestWebDesigner.com. It’s a really long, boring domain that nobody is going to remember or even finish typing in their browser. The great thing about domains is that they’re really cheap. But good names get sold fast, so if you thought of a good domain it’s generally a good idea to snatch it as quickly as possible. What I do is I put a twist on my domains. For instance WebDesignDev.com is really short and to the point – it tells the world I am a web designer and is a really catchy name – catchy enough for you to come to my website and read my articles and tutorials. I can bet that next time you want to read a fresh article or tutorial you will remember “WebDesignDev” because it’s so short and to the point and you may just type the name directly in the browser. As a matter of fact, almost 25% of my thousands of visitors are direct type-ins.
For all of my domains, I use GoDaddy, it is the largest domain registrar in the world and that is for a reason.
The most important thing about running an Internet Business is to have a reliable host. If you don’t have one, you are wasting your time. I recommend to everyone to always use HostGator. They are cheap, reliable and I have never heard a bad word about them. They answered any questions I have had in less than 1 hour. If you do decide to try to find a better host, please do your research. The worst thing in the world is to find your website is down, your host’s support is “unavailable”, and once it becomes available you find out they don’t have a recent back-up of your website. Ouch! I have had this happen to me more than once with different hosts, and I would hate to see that happen to you.
It’s really simple to host your domain. Log in to your GoDaddy account, on the left side you will find Domains > Domain Manager, click on Domain Manager and then click on your domain. You will see the tab Nameservers, click on that and change the name servers to the ones that HostGator sent you in the welcome e-mail. Make sure the option “I have specific nameservers for my domains” is selected before you update. The name servers will be something like:
NS1.Hostgator.COM and NS2.Hostgator.COM, only the 1 and 2 will be replaced by your server number. If you ever lose your welcome email, just send HostGator a support request to tickets (at) hostgator.com and they will send you a back-up of the email most likely within 1 hour. Once all of this is done, you will be able to create and upload your website.
4. Create a blog
Tools you should use: Premium WordPress Theme.
Every web designer must have a blog. There is NO excuse not to have one. I have one – WebDesignDev.com, and you should have one too. Whether you are going to blog about web design articles and tutorials and help other web designers, like I do, or about your web design work, or about something completely unrelated, you should still have a blog.
Install your blog. This is super easy, and I will show you how to do this in under 1 minute using Install Central or Fantastico. Not all hosts have Fantastico, but HostGator gives you Fantastico for free). To begin, go to http://www.YourDomain.com/cpanel and log in with the control panel login and password your host provided. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and locate the Software/Services section, under which you will see Fantastico. Click on Fantastico. Once you are in, on the left side you will see “WordPress” under the Blogs section, click on that, then click on New Installation link. Fantastico will then ask you to specify the details such as your domain, the location of the blog (you can just type “Blog” in there to have it on http://www.YourDomain.com/blog), your admin user name and password, admin nick name, e-mail, site name and Description. Once you fill in the details, click “Install WordPress”. You will then be asked to confirm everything by clicking “Finish Installation”. Click Finish Installation and you’ve just created your first blog!
Add posts to your blog. After you install your blog and go to it, on the right side you will see a link called Login (YourDomain.com/wp-login.php – this is the link you will use from now on to log in to your blog’s admin panel). Click on the link and log in with the admin username and pass you created in Fantastico while installing WordPress. Now you are inside the WordPress Dashboard, which is where I am right now as I am writing this To-Do list : ) On the left side you will see Posts section, and under it “Add New”. Click on Add New and you will be able to create your first blog post.
Get a theme for your blog. There are many options when it comes to WordPress Themes. You can use one of the free themes, or get a really good premium theme which you can customize.
WebDesignDev runs on WordPress using a premium theme I bought from ThemeForest which I’ve customized. WordPress is extremely hot right now, and premium themes are really not that expensive. If you are serious about your work, I suggest getting one of the premium themes from ThemeForest. It’s also my go-to place when I need to customize WP theme designs for my clients.
Once you have your theme, it is really simple to upload it. I personally use FileZilla for uploading, which is 100% free and works like a charm. Once you download FileZilla, open it, and it’ll ask you for the Host, User Name and Password. For Host put the name of your website, for user name and password use your *Cpanel* user name and password, not WordPress. Once you are in, you will need to upload the theme to Public_html/Wp-Content/Themes folder (first find the public_html folder, then click on Wp-Content folder, then click on the Themes folder). Once you are in, simply drag the unzipped Theme from wherever you saved it on your computer to the Themes folder. Another way to upload is through your hosting cpanel. Log in to your cpanel, click on File Manager, then go to the Public_html/Wp-Content/Themes folder and click on Upload which is in the top navigation. Upload the zip file of your theme and then unzip it.
Customize your theme as you like. Once you have finished uploading your theme, log in to your WordPress admin (YourSite.com/wp-login.php) and click Appearance on the left side, you will see your theme there. Click on it and a preview will open up. In the top right corner you will see Activate, click on that and your theme is now live!
Tools you should use: Tweet Adder
Twitter is a huge source of my traffic. After I write a new article or tutorial and tweet it I often get hundreds of tweets and retweets. Twitter allows me to dominate the web design niche. I see my Twitter followers as the people who I value and who value me and my work in return. What I did to get 32,000 followers on my WebDesignDev account was I went to one of the biggest names in Web Design industry, and every day manually added their most recent 100 followers (yes, it took a LONG time to do this). Those people would then come to my website, check out what great content I have, and follow me. Not only did they follow me on Twitter, but they became regular readers! I also noticed that Twitter followers are the loyal readers – they will stay on my website longer than someone who just came from Google or Yahoo. So over night you can start driving hundreds of targeted visitors to your website who are really interested in your website! But along the way I found an amazing tool to help me do what I was doing automatically, without me even being there.
Tool I use: Tweet Adder was made with one purpose in mind – to help you get Twitter Followers. It’s the one and only program currently on the market that gets you targeted Twitter followers on auto-pilot. It has really helped me to get the my 41,000 Twitter Followers.
6. Learn SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and build traffic to your site
Tool you should use: Seo Book
SEO is one of the most important things you need to learn to have a successful Internet business. Writing everything I know about SEO will likely take at least several hundred pages, but I will give you the most important things below. I have studied SEO for the past 8 years and have put in countless hours learning it. I can say it has paid off as I get around 50% of my traffic from search engines.
Tip: use Seo Book. It is the most well known SEO learning resource on the web, founded by global SEO expert Aaron Wall.
Titles. Your <title> tag is your most important tag on the page, which is why you have to know how to set this tag properly. Before you set a title of your pages, you need to ask yourself: ”What do I want people to find on my website/blog?” Most people think that they can set titles intuitively, but this is not always the case. You want to make sure you target the keywords that: 1) best describe your web design business/blog and 2) bring you the most traffic. I will discuss how to research titles shortly, but let me first discuss the <title> tag in more detail. You can see that the home page of WebDesignDev has <title>Web Design Tutorials | Create A Website | Make A Website | Learn Flash</title>. I am targeting 4 different keywords in a single title: 1) Web Design Tutorials; 2) Create A Website; 3) Make A Website; 4) Learn Flash. It is generally a good idea not to put too many keywords in the title since search engines will look at where in the title the targetted keyword is to see its important. So the keyword that appears say 50 characters after the beginning, is not nearly given as much weight as the keyword that appears first. I am targetting 4 keywords in my title, which is about as high as you want to go. It is of utmost importance to know which keywords will bring you the most traffic and which keywords to put first. If you just put “Web Design” for example, as the only thing in your title, you will probably not get much traffic. You must be thinking “but you just said the first keyword is the most important!” Yes, but “web design” is such a competitive term that you will need to do a LOT of SEO to get any kind of ranking there. Put a much more targeted keyword, such as “web design” followed by the name of your city, like “web design toronto” for example and follow it with several other keywords. Why is this a good title? And why is the title of WebDesignDev good? Look at the first 2 words – they are the same “web design” keyword that’s so hard to rank for, but they are followed with the word “tutorials” which is exactly what I am trying to target. I rank top 5 on Google, by the way, for that keyword : ) I am still giving my blog a chance to rank for “Web Design” by putting those 2 words first.
Keyword research. This is super important. If you don’t know what keywords to target, you can’t possibly bring many organic (search engine) visitors/customers to your web design website/blog. Google has a terrific keyword research tool I always use this tool before I create a title for any of my new articles to make sure that I choose the title that both describes what my articles are about and can bring me the highest number of visitors. In the box type the keyword that you think you want to use. Make sure to keep “use synonyms” checked so that you get all kinds of variations for the keyword. Once you get the results, to the top right of the first keyword you see in the list, right above it, you will see a drop down box that says “Broad”. Make sure to click it and select “Exact”. “Broad” simply tells you the total searches for that keyword including any search in which that keyword is just part of the search. This won’t give you an accurate idea of how much traffic you can expect from the keyword, so select “Exact” to see exactly how much traffic the keywords bring.
H tags. H tags vary from H1 to H6, H1 being the most important. You MUST have an H1 tag. This tag should come as early after your <body> tag as possible. Your H1 tag must contain your most important keywords. It is also the biggest tag visually, so use css styling to make it smaller. I won’t go into detail on how to use CSS in this article. Somewhere lower on the page you should use H2 tags for parts of your page that are second in importance. For example, my H1 tag is the same as my title: Web Designer TO-DO list (MUST-HAVE resources for Web Designers), and my H2 tags are the sections of my article, i.e. “Get a Domain”, “Host Your Domain” etc. This gives search engines a structured layout of what my page is about.
Meta tags. These tags are not as important as they once used to be, but you should still not neglect them. The meta tags go inside your <head> </head> tags. Search engines may refer to your meta tags if they don’t find the search keyword anywhere else in your article. Make sure your meta description tag is not too short, and not too long, since that can affect your rankings adversely. Also, make sure you have a reasonable number of meta keywords. A sample of meta description and keywords tags would be the following:
<meta name=”description” content=”Web Designer TO-DO list (MUST-HAVE resources for Web Designers) brought to you by WebDesignDev.com” />
<meta name=”keywords” content=”Web designer to do list, must have resource for web designers, web design, resources” />
Page Speed. This is VERY important. If your blog/web design site loads slowly, you will not rank as well as other websites. I have personally seen an increase of 200% in traffic simply by switching hosting. Make sure to use only the fastest hosting provider. Even if you already have hosting, shared hosting is very cheap and I would strongly encourage you to switch to the hosts that are known to be the fastest on the net.
Keyword density on page. This is another very important part of SEO. Search engines will look at how many times a certain keyword is repeated on the page to judge how relevant your page is in comparison to others. Make sure not to abuse this: intentionally “stuffing” the page with numerous keywords is considered “black hat” and is frowned upon by search engines. They will give you a penalty if you put too many keywords. And while it is impossible to know the “perfect” keyword density, strive for somewhere in the range of 5-10%.
Internal links. Many people don’t realize that the anchor text of your internal links, if used properly, can give a HUGE boost to your rankings. And the best part of it is that these links are free! Use the same Google keyword research tool to see how to set the anchor text of your internal links, such as your navigation links. Always have a link either in your footer or your top navigation with your most important keyword pointing to your home page. This means every internal page you have will give your main page a boost for that keyword!
External links. These are harder to get than internal links, since someone else has to link to you. But these links are considered extremely valuable by search engines. Every external link is a “vote” for your website, and the text for that link tells search engines the subject of that vote. Try to get as many external links as possible.
Content is king. If you have quality content, not only will people find it interesting to read, but other websites and blogs will link to you too. By writing this web designer to-do list, I am hoping I have provided you with something that you found extremely useful that will help you in your web design career.
Use Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics/). You need to analyze which keywords are bringing you traffic. You also need to use the keyword tool I mentioned earlier to see which keywords are not bringing you traffic, but which you can add to you pages. For instance, you could be ranked #9 for a given keyword, and by simply tweaking some words on the page (i.e. adding more repetitions of that keyword) could push you to the first page. Don’t be afraid to experiment. People’s biggest fear is “I am already ranking ok, if I change something I could get less traffic.” Write down or remember the changes you make. If something you do negatively affects your ranking, you can simply undo it and get the rankings back very quickly. Use this principle to improve your rankings.
Don’t be afraid to take action – action gets you results.
This is all the time I have today to devote to this to-do list, but I will add more as soon as I can! Check back often for updates!
If you love my Web Designer To-Do list and resources page, make sure to follow me on Twitter@WebDesignDev. Also, if you haven’t done so already, I strongly encourage you to read my guide on How To Make A Lot More Money Online Doing Web Design.